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Innovation Results in Big Aviation Fuel Savings for NZDF

28 November 2018

A clever system to calculate fuel savings that could be made for Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) aircraft has earned Flight Lieutenant Samuel Hatrick the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Innovation of the Year 2018 award.

Flight Lieutenant Hatrick, from RNZAF Base Auckland in Whenuapai, identified that fuel costs represented a large proportion of the operational budget of No. 40 Squadron, which flies the RNZAF’s Boeing 757 strategic airlifters.

Noting that fuel prices varied from one location to another and that at some remote airfields it could cost up to four times more than at other airfields, he devised a way to make considerable savings.

Following the practice of commercial airlines, he created a spreadsheet to show planners when aircraft should fill up on a stopover, rather than just taking on enough fuel to reach the next destination. The spreadsheet also calculates the fuel savings that can be made. 

At a surprise presentation recently at RNZAF Base Auckland, the Chief of Joint Defence Services Charlie Lott announced Flight Lieutenant Hatrick the winner of the NZDF’s Innovation award.

“Flight Lieutenant Hatrick’s system for quickly and easily calculating fuel savings has already saved the NZDF more than $400,000,” Mr Lott said.

“He clearly demonstrates the innovative spirit that underpins our values.” 

Flight Lieutenant Hatrick was also commended for educating his peers and seniors on the process, which is now used in all RNZAF Boeing 757 flight planning.

“This award was created to celebrate those among us who go above and beyond their job to deliver important change to the NZDF,” Mr Lott said. “Flight Lieutenant Hatrick is a worthy recipient.

“His commitment demonstrates that innovation is not just about coming up with a great idea, but having the courage and commitment to see the idea become a reality.”

Flight Lieutenant Hatrick said his innovation allowed users to take a raw data calculation that had been cumbersome to interpret and now get a quantifiable result.

“The effect of that quantifiable result gives our planners reason to fill up with fuel or not; resulting in reduced fuel costs.”

He said the award came as a shock and it was an honour to receive it.

“It reflects a lot of thought and discussion had among the B757 pilots on No. 40 Squadron.

“Innovation to me is all about narrowing down what the actual problem is, and to then apply common sense and plenty of thought into how to turn that inefficiency into an efficiency.

“There were plenty of failures with the spreadsheet, and there will be more failures to come, but it wouldn’t be what it is now without those failures.”

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